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DLR fare-dodging clampdown success ‘due to franchise specifications’

Docklands Light Railway (DLR) has revealed how it used requirements in its franchise partnership to tackle fare evasion in an interview with RTM.

An RTM Freedom of Information request found that DLR has lost £3.3m to fare evasion since 2010, but it has reduced the amount lost per year over a third.

In 2010-11, 1.4 million passengers, or 1.8% of the total, travelled on DLR without paying – at a cost of £1.6m.

The figures decreased to 840,000 passengers and £1m in revenue in 2012-13, before rising again to 970,000 passengers and £1.2m in 2013-14.

However, since then they have undergone a steady decrease. The figures for 2015-16 show fare evasion is at the lowest level ever, with 740,000 passengers, or 0.6% of the total, evading fares – at a cost of £999,000.

“We’ve put a lot of effort in this area, especially when this new franchise started two years ago,” Mark Davis, head of franchise and concessions at DLR, told RTM.

KeolisAmey won the contract to operate DLR from Serco in 2014. Davis said that as part of the bidding process, TfL specified how many tickets had to be checked every period and how many blocks had to be in place.

It also said the blocks had to take place at a wider range of times, and that where there were higher levels of evasion at a station than expected, a plan had to be developed to tackle it.

In addition, the franchise put more emphasis on on-board staff walking down the train to assist with passenger queries and check tickets.

Davis told RTM that the consequence of this process had been a month-on-month increase in the rate of tickets being checked. In the most recent four-week period, 11.5% of all tickets were checked.

“The tickets are being checked more than they used to,” Davis continued, “and I think that is important, not just as a message to the people that aren’t buying a ticket that we will catch you, but actually giving reassurance to the people that are spending their hard-earned money that we’re actually making sure that the ones that don’t, we catch.”

The changes were so successful, he added, that they “have had a couple of complaints from passengers come in to say ‘my ticket’s being checked too much’, which I’m not sure if it’s a nice problem to have or not”.

This week, a report into ticket office closures on the London Underground revealed that many passengers felt staff were increasingly absent in stations. Davis said he couldn’t comment on another TfL service and that DLR stations were unstaffed, but agreed that staff visibility on the trams is important.

“We believe that our staff are quite visible on our services, and our customer satisfaction levels show that our customers think that as well,” he added.

The new franchise contract also allows DLR to access the TfL database in order to identify persistent fare dodgers on all TfL transport systems. Repeat offenders can be prosecuted through the courts instead of paying the standard £80 fare.

Davis argued that another factor in DLR’s success was closer relationships with British Transport Police. This has meant that officers and PCSOs are stationed at high-risk stations and are positioned to help where there is a chance of conflict with fare dodgers.

A separate FoI request by RTM found that fare-dodging has cost Manchester’s Metrolink £8m over three years, with 5.5% of passengers observed travelling without a ticket.

(Image c. TfL)

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Martin Walton   09/12/2016 at 15:55

Maybe something to be noted on Manchester Metrolink which seems to suffer greatly from the fare evasion problem, costing the operators dearly?

J, Leicester   12/12/2016 at 09:49

It should be pretty simple to stop faredodging on a driverless system. Just implement platform doors with some sort of preventative measure for those who haven't "tapped in" or out, or additional turnstiles at all stations. That being said, the reduction is impressive - 0.6% is likely far lower than the national network, or at less well-staffed Tube stations.

PML   17/12/2016 at 09:46

This looks like a step in the right direction. The next step should be to roll this style of ticket checking widely across all public transport nationally, and at the same time remove all ticket gates, and increase the penalties for fare dodging. Take a look at the public transport systems in Berlin and Copenhagen for examples.

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